4/27/2023 Waukegan Harbor Fishing Report and Rod Selection

4/27/2023 Fishing Report - Waukegan Harbor

Coho fishing remains consistent with fish coming on dodger/fly combos and spoons. Fish are holding between 20’-40’ working the bait in the area. Speaking of bait, there is so much bait, more success has come from working the outside of the bait than running right in it. If you’re dragging alewives, those lures are dead. Stay outside the bait if that is happening. Best fly colors have B/G/G (Blue, green gold), 7-up, Green Mirage. Spoons in the blues and greens down 12’-18’ off riggers and dodger/fly combos in the same area. Dipseys back 16’-28’ are working well too. There’s no reason to not start running 2” slider flies either. If we get some overcast conditions try a couple B/B/P (Black, blue, purple) in the spread along with the old Two-Tone green and B/G/G. Good Fishing!

Choosing the Right Rod 

This is probably one of the most debated topics among salmon trollers on the water. What  manufacturer? What power? What action? What length? Mono, braid, lead, copper, wire line rods? Well, because this is such a debatable topic and we can write a chapter or two in a book about it… Here are some basics, what we use on the charter boat, and why.

First and foremost you must ask yourself two questions, actually three. 

  1. What’s the budget?
  2. How ofter will fish?
  3. Do I want to use the rods for multi-species or is this just salmon/trout gear?

It’s not hard to amass 24 or more rod/reel combos just for salmon. This is going to be a big investment over time for most anglers starting out. One question above we can rule out is action. Almost all of the trolling rods will be of moderate action. Here we go…

Manufacturer - The big three in the salmon trolling game are Shimano (Talora series), Okuma, and Ugly Sticks. On the charters we run Shimano Talora rods with good success and customer support. However, If you are not gonna be grinding it out every day or every weekend for that matter, I’d look at a cheaper rod which will still be of quality to do what you need. The Cabela’s Depth Master rod/reel combos were a staple for many weekend anglers, however they are no longer produced. 

Planer rods - 7’ Medium Light or Medium action (we run ML) is all you need. The medium light rods will bring in big kings and steelhead, while allowing for a fun fight on smaller fish. Additionally, they double as a walleye or crappie trolling rods if needed. 

Down-rigger Rods - 7’ Medium action. This is plenty of rod to withstand the constant stress of the bend and to fight the biggest of king salmon. Nobody has fun fighting a fish with a broom stick. Second, there’s really no reason for long rods in the salmon trolling world because they need to be manageable in the boat, around other people in the boat, the other rods, and easy to store. We see a lot of comments on social media about using 9’ and 10’ dipsey rods. In our opinion, these are just too long to use in a smaller boat or big boat alike.

Dipsey Rods - For mono or braid applications we use 7’ Medium power rods (Note: these can also double as down-rigger rods). On mono and braid we’re NOT using magnum dipseys. In the spring its not uncommon to run two dispeys per side. When we do, our inside dipsey is mono on the 7’ rod and the second is going to be braid on an 8’ medium action rod. As the season progresses and/or we fish deeper water, we dump the the mono dipsey and add a wireline dipsey rod 8’ Medium Heavy Power to pull the magnum divers. Wireline rods are designed for such use. We just mentioned three types of dipsey rods. It really doesn’t matter much if both the dipsey rods are the same length because the setting on the dipsey itself is what separates the lines. 

**If we could only buy one dipsey rod it would be the 8’ Medium Heavy wireline dipsey rod. This rod has versatility throughout the entire season. It can be run shallow with a regular dipsey and up to 100’ deep with a magnum dipsey. Also, for some reason wireline produces fish! 

Lead Core and Copper Rods (Again, specifically designed for the line)

We use an 8’ medium power rod for all of our lead core lines up to 10 colors. Medium power in an 8’ rod has plenty of backbone to pull planer board, the line, and catch a really big fish on it. Lead lines range in length typically from 2 - 10 colors of lead. Occasionally, someone will run 12 colors. Personally, if we need the extra feet of depth we’re going to move to copper lines. Remember lead is getting down in the column 4-5’ per color. What are the best lead runs for all season use? 5, 6, and 8 color.

Copper rods we keep the same length but go to medium heavy power. Our copper rods are targeting deeper water where the big kings and the lake trout like to hangout. Also the copper line and boards weigh and pull substantially more than lead. We run copper lines between 150’ - 450’ in length. You’ll get 9-10’ depth into the water column with every 50’ of copper. 

It becomes quite difficult to store a 2 - 10 color lead rod (9 rods) on a recreational boat along with the planer rods, down-rigger rods, and dipseys. When fishing recreational boats you can get away with 2 or four lead rods by tying in a piece of mono every color or 2 colors until you have a 10 color lead core. You need the mono in there to clip the planer board. It’s not a good idea to clip to the lead line itself. This offers great versatility all season long.  Same goes for a copper rod… put a piece of mono in-between every 50’ of copper. Best copper runs for all season use 150’ and 250’. 

We hope this gives some insight into rod selection and application. Just perform a cost vs. benefit analysis as you start purchasing and expanding the rod/reel selection. Like we said, it’s not hard to have 24 or more combos if you’re trying to cover all the bases. With some tips and tricks, it’s easy to get away with a lot fewer. Keep your lines tight and the boat upright!

Welcome to Spendthrift Charters!

Frequently called the "Best Chicago Fishing Charters" in Chicagoland and proudly serving the Chicago and Waukegan, Illinois areas for over 40 years, Captain Jerry Nied has been chartering the finest of fishing trips. Spendthrift Charters is one of the largest fishing charter fishing vessels available on Lake Michigan today. We currently have three 39-ft Tiara ships to satisfy every fishing need, no matter the size of the group. Captain Jerry is a full time U.S. Coast Guard and licensed captain. Fishing charters are available 7 days a week. Call now for the next available Chicago fishing charter departure time!

Mail: 1091 West Dearborn Ln. Vernon Hills, IL. 60061

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